10 Things You Should Know About The Battle Of Britain

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The battle of Britain was between Nazi Germany and Britain, and it lasted for three and a half months from July 10th, 1940 to October 31st, 1940. The Germans called it the “Die Luftschalact um England”, meaning “Air battle for England.”

The Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the UK against the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The primary objective of the Germans was to compel the British to agree to a peace negotiation and settlement. This was something the Germans thought was forthcoming since their defeat of France in June 1940. But even though some in Britain were willing to talk settlement with Germany, Churchill would hear nothing of a British surrender. The Battle began with the Luftwaffe targeting coastal shipping areas and RAF airstrips and infrastructure. As the battle dragged on, the Luftwaffe targeted factories and strategic infrastructure. By the end the of the battle, the Luftwaffe was bombing political targets and civilians in order to get the British to back down and to assert their dominance over the RAF.

But the Luftwaffe failed and it was the RAF who proved to be the better air force. The defeat at the Battle of Britain caused Hitler to cancel Operation Sea Lion which was to be his air and amphibious invasion of Britain.

That is just the beginning of the story of the Battle of Britain. Here are some things many people don’t know about this early World War II battle.

10. It was more than just a Victory for the British

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According to statistics, the RAF fighters were made of 2,937 pilot fighters, but only around 2,350 were British. Twenty percent of them were volunteers from Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand as well as expatriates from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and other countries that had already fallen to the Nazis. The refugees who had lost their countries and were more than willing to give their lives to help the British fight for the chance to save Europe.  There were even American pilots who had joined up to help the British to fight for what they believed was right.

There were so many foreign pilots that joined the RAF that many squadrons were divided by country. The Polish forces had the 302 and the 303 Squadron. The 303 Squadron was considered the most successful squadron of all the Allied squadrons the Battle of Britain with 176 kills. There were several Polish pilots of note with more than 15 kills each but perhaps the most recognized pilot with the 303 squadron wasn’t Polish at all, and he wasn’t even a member of the squadron.

Sgt Josef Frantisek was from Czechoslovakia, he was assigned to the Czech squadron but he preferred to fly alongside his Polish comrades. Desperate for pilots, the British allowed Frantisek to be an unofficial member of the 303 squadron, as an independent pilot. So he followed his own rules, and at times flew off alone, patrolling through areas he anticipated the German aircraft traveled on their way back to base. The German planes returning to base would likely be damaged and low on fuel, so he would ambush the fighter planes brutally bringing them down. He was able to score 17 victories in this manner.

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  • MIchael Kozaczek

    Here is another fact: Polish pilots, who where instrumental in The Battle of Britain, were not allowed to march in the London victory parade. Perfidy.

  • Charles C oberholtzer

    Very interesting information.

  • LTC Gene Moser

    The main reason the Hurricane had more kills is the last one mentioned – the Spitfires went after the Bf-109 and then the FW-190 when it deployed while the Hurricanes went after the level bombers, the dive bombers and the Bf-110, all of which were easier targets.

    • Bill Quinlan

      Absolutely correct.

    • Patrick Oxford

      The main reason that Hurricanes had more kills was because there were more of them in the Battle of Britain.

    • urnuts

      I believe, also, the Hurricane had 8 guns and the Spit 6…? I know from speaking to several RAF pilots that the Hurricane was a pretty impressive gun platform and they handled the bombers while the Spits tangled with the fighters. One wonders what the RAF would have done without both or, I guess, better put… without the Hurricanne? To those who know little about the BOB it’s always thought that the image of the RAF victory in the BOB was a Spit doing a victory roll! A Hurricane pilot once told me “They got all the glory and we did all the work!”…… with a smile on his face.

  • There is a mistake – Josef František was an OFFICIAL member of 303. He preferred to fight and fly with Poles.

  • Schnee

    The Blitz lasted from September 7th 1940 through to May 21st 1941, when Hitler moved his attention eastward… you did get the dead civilians close, more than 40 thousand… my family in Southwark docks suffering many dead… good article otherwise… glad you mentioned 302 and 303, squadrons… they need more recognition…

  • Charles Parker

    Two pilots are worth mentioning, as are many others. Robert Stanford Tuck was an incredible fighter pilot, who had 28 kills. And an American, L. C. Wade had 25 kills. He was killed in a crash before the war ended. He was from Texas, and has relatives in Louisiana near where I live. They are good friends of ours. Tuck was shot down and captured by the Germans. Look up both of them, a worthwhile read.

    • arbcar

      “Fly For Your Life” is a memoir by R.S. Tuck, it’s been a while, but I remember it was a good read.

    • urnuts

      I met Tuck a few times. I was quite young at the time- 15 or so- but we communicated via the mail, as well. Quite dashing. Met him and Galland together in NYC and I asked him how he- and other pilots in attendance could be so friendly and he said “The hate does no good- we were all serving our country”. That is a sentiment not shared by Bomber airmen but that’s another story!

  • sparks

    We were fighting the USA as well.. Standard Oil (Bush oil) were supplying the luftwaffe with lead fuel additives they were unable to manufacture themselves – keeping the Luftwaffe airborne and able to attack Britain..
    Henry Ford was awarde the grand cross of the eagle for his contribution to the war effort – by Hitler for building his tanks and trucks.. ford,rockerfeller, bush and co also made the zyklon b gas..

  • Bill Quinlan

    If that’s true, it’s another disgusting example of profit before all. 🙁

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      It was something that has been brought up during Bush elections as people question how much of the Bush family fortune came from Nazis.
      There are some links, especially in terms of banking and potentially oil trading before the U.S. declared war.
      Keep in mind that Germany needed help to pay reparations and rich Americans were eager to invest. They wanted to see Germany succeed to get their money back.
      Also until the U.S. declared war it was not illegal or traitorous trade with Germany. Morally? Ignorance was bliss for the Americans, they wanted to believe the accusations against Hitler were exaggerated so they could stay out of the war and keep investing in Germany.

      After the U.S. entered the war things changed and most pulled away from Germany. After the war the U.S. did investigate and seize the assets of a bank Prescott Bush was involved in but no direct link between Bush and support of the Nazis during the war was made to justify a charge of treason. There is plenty of information on the matter but unbiased sources can be hard to find due to the political connections of the family.

  • gil tipping

    No FW 190’s took part in the summer/autumn 1940 battle, they didn’t enter device till 1941. Their fighter was the BF 109E

    • eramthgin

      Nice catch

  • sbleve

    The air battle of Britain created a little known connection with the United States. Basic aircraft flight training in Britain could not be conducted at any effective level during the air assault by Germany. In a secret alliance (US was still neutral) British men were shipped to Canada, mustered out of the British military and as civilians entered the United States reporting to one of 7 Basic Flight School for all of the required flight training. When Germany declared war on the United States the secret shroud was lifted allowing the alliance that authorized the cadets-students to wear their national uniform. The 7 British basic flight centers were reduced to make way for American flight training, and continuing until the end of WW2. Terrell Texas has a good museum depicting the British involvement inside of the United States. Some history may be harder to find. Here is one internet connection. There many other sources. http://militaryhistorynow.com/2016/01/22/the-raf-in-american-skies-how-british-pilots-trained-in-the-u-s-during-ww2/

  • Beverly Chmelik

    We should also be glad that the Germans didn’t use drop tanks like they did in the Spanish civil war on the fighters. Another 50 or 75 gallons of fuel would have made a huge difference in the ME109 endurance in the combat zone.

    • Dan Zervos

      The drop tanks they had for the Bf 109 at the time were unreliable and dangerous. The Bf 109 also only had a 66 imp gallon fuel tank at this time of the war (later it was increased to 88 imp gallons). The imperial gallon was about 20% bigger than the American gallon (which is based on the Queen Anne wine gallon). I wonder why the Germans did not employ the Dewoitine D.520 which had 50% greater range than the BF 109. They captured around 150 of them. Later they had Vichy France resume production and produced close to 500 more (that were used for training and given to German allies). The D.520 was probably superior to the Hurricane.